You may have seen the news reports about the drowning death of 19-month old Emeline Miller, daughter of former winter Olympian Bode Miller. The toddler was playing with other children in a room during a party when she got outside through a back door. By the time anyone realized she was gone, it was too late — she was found in a pool and could not be revived.
It’s an all-too-familiar tragedy. The National Safety Council states that “drowning … is the second leading cause of death for people age 5-24.” According to Safe Kids Worldwide, “Among preventable injuries, drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1 – 4 years old.”
With summer in full swing, the region’s pools, creeks, lakes, waterparks and rivers are packed with swimmers, boaters, anglers and people just looking to beat the heat by splashing around. Every year there are multiple media reports about drownings in the region’s waterways — especially in quarries and the Lehigh and Delaware rivers. Remember that a moving body of water’s current can easily overwhelm even a strong swimmer and that swimmers can get trapped against or under rocks, logs, and submerged objects.
We want everyone to have a fun and safe summer, and encourage you to follow these tips gathered from the American Red Cross, the National Water Safety Month website and the NSC. They could save your life, or the life of someone you love.
- Teach children water safety and swimming skills as early as possible.
- Never swim alone.
- Learn CPR and rescue techniques. Post CPR instructions.
- Keep rescue equipment poolside. Don’t wait for the paramedics to arrive because you will lose valuable lifesaving seconds. Four to six minutes without oxygen can cause permanent brain damage or death.
- Keep a first aid kit poolside.
- Make sure the body of water matches your skill level; swimming in a pool is much different than swimming in a lake or river, where more strength is needed to handle currents.
- If you do get caught in a current, don’t try to fight it; stay calm and float with it, or swim parallel to the shore until you can swim free.
- Swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard.
- Always brief babysitters on water safety, emphasizing the need for constant supervision.
- Appoint a designated watcher to monitor children during social gatherings at or near pools.
- Maintain constant visual contact with children in a pool or pool area. If a child is missing, check the pool first; seconds count in preventing death or disability.
- Don’t use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.
- Never allow a young child in a pool without an adult.
- Don’t leave objects such as toys that might attract a child in the pool and pool area
- Never assume someone else is watching a child in a pool area.
- Don’t think you’ll hear a child who’s in trouble in the water; child drowning is a silent death, with no splashing to alert anyone that the child is in trouble.
- Install and use a lockable safety cover on your spa.
- Equip doors and windows that exit to a pool area with alarms.
- Install four-sided isolation fencing, at least five feet high, equipped with self-closing and self-latching gates, that completely surrounds the pool and prevents direct access from the house and yard.
- Learn about Hypoxic Blackout and its causes.
For more tips for pool and spa owners, visit PoolSafely.gov
One last note on water safety: Water temperature is also a factor in many drownings — streams, rivers and deep bodies of water are almost always colder than the temperature of the surrounding air. It might be 80 degrees F on a spring day, but the temperature of the river could be 30 degrees lower. That difference in temperature can easily cause the body to go into shock. Read this primer from Beyond Cold Water Boot Camp for more information.